A 1943 B-25 Mitchell bomber will be at the Winona Municipal Airport through Sunday, August 18, for both public viewing and paid flights. This B-25 bomber, “Maid in the Shade,” truly is a historic relic — flying over 15 missions during WWII and bombing areas of Italy and Yugoslavia. It is considered a flying museum.
A Doolittle reunion crew poses in front
of the Maid in the Shade.
Spike McLane, Maid in the Shade’s current pilot, explained just how rare this plane is. “Most of the warbirds you see flying around never left the United States," he said. "This actually went over to Europe and dropped bombs.” Of the approximately 10,000 B-25 bomber planes manufactured during WWII, about 30 are left in the world. Of those 30 planes, about 15 are capable of flying.
After WWII, the B-25 returned to the U.S. and was used for training, and spending time at work in Texas dusting for red ants. Eventually, the plane was sold for scrap aluminum, but was purchased for $1,800 before it was scrapped. The man who bought the plane then donated it to the Airbase Arizona Commemorative Air Force, where it took about 28 years to restore this B-25 to the configuration of its WWII glory days.
Jerry Briggs, co-pilot, recalled that many WWII planes were named after mothers or girlfriends. This plane was named for the location where it was stored while being restored. The plane spent several years in a warehouse corner as it was slowly brought back to life, and according to Briggs the corner provided shade from the hot Arizona sun, which led to the name Maid in the Shade.
The B-25 planes were made famous four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when 16 B-25s lifted off the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet for the Jimmy Doolittle Raid. The planes had to be launched earlier than originally planned, and after successfully bombing Tokyo, they were forced to land on the coast of China due to lack of fuel. While most crew members eventually made it safely back to the U.S., a few were killed — either captured and executed, or died in the crash landing. Over 250,000 Chinese people were executed by the Japanese as they searched China for the remaining U.S. crew members, but 70 crew members were able to get back to Allied forces.
In addition to their 4,000 pound bomb capacity the B-25 planes were armed with 12, .50 caliber machine gunes and carried a crew of six.
To visit Maid in the Shade, stop by the Winona Municipal Airport between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. through Sunday. Cockpit tours are available for $5. Rides in plane start at $395, and a ride in the front of the plane costs $650. These rides will be available Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. To reserve a seat call (480)-322-5503.
The crew also encourages people to visit the Arizona Wing Commemorative Air Force Museum in Mesa, Ariz.